Hope Sinks


Pot Lucky!
November 19, 2008, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Good Days, Veganism | Tags: , , , , ,

As you may be aware, I’m leaving my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta (look it up on google maps) and moving to San Francisco, California to be with my husband. While I’m greatly looking forward to the move, I’m going to miss the friends and family I’ll be leaving behind… well, most of them, anyway.

I tend to like to fly under the radar a lot. Especially lately when I’ve been trying to scrimp and save my pennies, I haven’t gone out much, and I’m sad to say I’ve neglected a lot of my friends, so I’ve been surprised the last couple weeks at all the people who have said they will actually notice and even miss my presence in Edmonton. Thanks, guys, and I’ll miss you too.

One of the people who really drove it home for me was my friend, Jennifer, who baked the most amazing cake I’ve ever seen for the PPK Edmonton Potluck this past Sunday. I don’t think I’ve ever had my eyes well up at the sight of food before, but I did this Sunday, and this is why:

It’s easy to forget that food can have that kind of impact. Though nowadays most people in my family can and do cook, from a young age, I was really the only one who would do things like make fancy dinners for my friends and family as a way of expressing affection. It’s not something conscious, but I guess I’ve just grown up feeling like there’s nothing that makes a person feel┬áloved and cared for like a thoughtful, special meal. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the people who cook for you are the ones you keep.

Okay, that probably sounds mean, but looking back on the past 5 or 6 years of my life, the people who I remain close to are those I’ve made and shared food with. Not that the cake was a clincher or anything, but I’m pretty sure that whenever I think of this cake in the future (which is likely to be fairly often, since I’ll be seeing the Golden Gate Bridge fairly regularly in the coming months/years/lifetime), I’ll also think about sitting down to write Jennifer a note or postcard. When I have my wedding anniversaries, I’ll think of melisser, who baked my (belated) wedding cake and also the group of fine ladies who all chipped in to buy my new husband and I a fancy dinner. I didn’t literally share that meal with my girls, but I will think of them whenever I’m back at Millenium.

I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that while I love food and cook and eat a lot by myself, I look back at my life, and particularly my past 5-and-a-half years as a vegan, and I see special food connected to special people and special times (god, I’ve used the word “special” too many times in this entry, but if I were to get all thesaurus-y, it would be even worse, I know it), and I feel incredibly lucky to have met and broken bread with all of them.

<3, guys.

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VeganMoFo: Back On The Wagon

I was so diligent in my MoFoing for the first 10 days or so of the month… right up until I went to San Francisco to visit my husband. Darn the luck. Anyway, there’s still time for one more (business) week of MoFoing, so hold on to your butts, because I’m starting out with Katie‘s Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls.

Like many of you, I’ve been meaning to make these for a really, really long time. Now that I’ve made them, I feel like a dope for not having done so earlier. I’ve talked before in this blog about how yeasted things tend to subconsciously freak me out, meaning that I tend to not make them much. I haven’t gotten to the root of why this is (I’ve never screwed up any yeasted thing I’ve made; I don’t find yeasted recipes difficult; etc.), but it’s prevented me from trying a bunch of things that I would normally been all over before even finishing reading the description. I suppose the time factor is a big one for me (I work 60 hours a week and have to find time for a bunch of other extracurriculars and international phone calls as well), but that’s not really a good reason either, given the amount of time I waste on the internet and the amount of reading I try to get done every day. Anyway, my point is, I have an irrational yeasted recipe aversion, and I’m happy I overcame it long enough to make these because they are fucking crazily good.

Bam! That’s right – they are all up in your face.

Having made these, I have the following to say to those of you who haven’t yet taken the plunge, whether from laziness (like me) or worry about your cooking/baking skills, or just plain old ambivalence: Get over it. These are really pretty easy – the hardest skills involved are kneading the dough (easy) and cleaning the countertop afterward (harder, but worth it). They don’t even have to rise for that long (45 minutes + 5 minutes resting time), and they really do produce fluffy, delicious, better-than-the-bakery cinnamon rolls. If you’re like me, you haven’t had one of those since well before you went vegan. Assuming you’re vegan.

The other thing I thought of while I was waiting for these to rise is that one of virtues of yeasted food is that they rely on the principle of delayed pleasure. That is, I tend to pass over yeasted breads and rolls in favour of stuff that uses soda or baking powder, and I do this because I want instant (well, as instant as baking can be) gratification. I can’t be bothered, most of the time, to wait for an hour or 90 minutes while dough rises, and I don’t like that in myself. Yeasted foods, if you want to get really hippie dippy about it, force us to indulge in delayed pleasure, which probably fosters a good impulse in us.. particularly those of us who are considering fucking the whole delayed-pleasure thing in favour of more immediate (well, delayed by 8 months, so not that instant) pleasure… oh, I’ve said too much! But you get my drift, don’t you? Waiting for the things we want tends to be a good thing that encourages good traits in ourselves (just look at Love In The Time Of Cholera), and these pumpkin cinnamon rolls can improve me anytime.

Anyway, I’m a bit rusty. I don’t know how to write about food or innovate or anything, but this is my attempt to get back on the wagon.



VeganMoFo: Baking with Grandma
October 2, 2008, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Veganism, VeganMoFo | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I got some really crappy news today: my grandma fell and broke her hip this afternoon. Luckily, she happened to have her cell phone (which my dad bought for her and made her learn to use) on her and was able to call 911 from the spot near the back of her yard where she fell. She got to the hospital, and my dad tells me that while she was looking a little grey when he saw her, she’s doing okay and will be having surgery late tonight or sometime tomorrow morning. Anti-serendipitously, I had planned to write about my grandma today (without having known about the accident), following a conversation I had had with my sister, but now it feels like a bigger deal. I’m going to write anyway, but watch this spot, because I’ll very likely revise this entry to do proper justice to the subject. Anyway.

My grandma was born in England in 1922. She was a nurse aide during the second world war and bicycled through the English countryside during the blackouts delivering supplies to various hospitals and medical centres, one time pitching headfirst into a ditch and knocking out some teeth. She became interested in communism following the war and has remained a principled leftist and keen political observer. During the brief time between leases one summer that I lived with her, I was more up on current events (especially local and provincial politics) than I have ever been in my life. Long story short: my grandma is awesome, and I am unmitigated scum for not calling her as often as I should.

Bringing it back to VeganMoFo, though, my grandma was also the person who taught me to bake. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of standing on a footstool at her kitchen counter making jam tarts – tiny, simple tarts made of basic pastry and homemade raspberry jam. Baking jam tarts with my grandma was my absolute, bar-none favorite thing when I was five years old. It’s hard to remember now how much I was actually able to do, but at the time, it seemed like my grandma hardly did any of the work, which meant that I was, at five, a totally awesome baker. Of course, grandma must have done most of the work (I live with a five-year-old now, and she is balls in the kitchen), but she did it in such a way that I felt like I was in charge. I guess the really awesome thing she did was give me confidence, and I am thankful that that confidence in my ability to make food has carried through to today.

I’m not an amazing cook. I’m a pretty good baker and definitely serviceable in the kitchen, but I know when I’m out of my league. I make the odd crappy dish (like the first thing I ever made for my husband and didn’t have any time at all and only had shitty knives and pots and pans, and the kitchen was a mess, and I was so nervous, and my dish sucked so bad, and I was so embarassed oh my god), and I still sometimes have to throw things away and start from scratch, but I’ve never had to deal with the hand-wringing, anxiety-inducing crises of confidence that so many people have when it comes to cooking. Cooking and baking have never been scary to me, and for that, I think I largely have my grandma to thank.

I had meant to post the recipe for those little jam tarts before I found out about the accident, but now I can’t call my grandma to get the pastry recipe she used. Instead, I’ll just have to leave you with a promise to make them tomorrow and admonitions to all call your grandmas, you unappreciative jerks.



Muffin Monday
March 24, 2008, 10:55 am
Filed under: Veganism | Tags: , , , ,

I didn’t realize until quite late last night that I have the day off today. Yeah, I have lots of homework and stuff to catch up on, but having a whole day of unstructured time where I don’t really have to feel guilty because I should be somewhere else (like, in class) is pretty awesome, so to celebrate, I’m cooking. First up: muffins.

I love muffins, but I always make the same kind: banana chocolate chip. They rule, and I’ll post the recipe, which has been perfected after having been made over 50 times, but today, I felt like I should branch out. In the fridge I had some strawberries and frozen saskatoons, so I decided to do a riff on Joanna‘s Very Berry Muffins.

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all purp. flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup saskatoons

Do It!
Chop up strawberries into quarters or sixths depending on size and set aside. Combine dry ingredients (I always add sugar at this stage, though most recipes tell you to combine sugar with the wet ingredients and then add) and mix thoroughly. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl and add to dry. Mix until mostly combined and then add fruit. Mix until fruit is evenly distributed.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Watch your muffins to make sure they’re not getting over-cooked on top.

These turned out beautifully. They’re slightly sweet, but the flax and rolled oats keep them from being cloying and grocery-store-ish. They’re also quite low in fat (only 2 tbsp oil) but have a nice crumb and texture with big chunks of fruit.

Later today: pizza with my siblings!